We Sold Our Car in One Hour!
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Our biggest variable in our timeline for leaving the country, in our mind, has always been selling our car. We sold everything we own by listing it (eBay, Craigslist and word of mouth). Because we listed our stuff well before our departure date, we had plenty of time to sell items for their value or only a little below their value (there were one or two notable exceptions to this). But when it came to our car, we ran into a few variables.
Because we decided to not immediately leave the country (Sergio has work and clients to visit and we both have family and friends to visit before heading off) we needed some type of transportation to get us to each location. Our plan was to go from our home town in Idaho to Portland, then down to the San Francisco Bay area, have a brief visit in Los Angeles, and finally end in San Diego, California. These were our options:
1. Fly and rent a car in each city for local transportation.
This is the easiest and fastest way to travel. Hop on a plane, and in an hour or two get off and go straight to the rental car counter. In no time you’re off to see the town. Plane tickets for one person are expensive, and for two people this can really add up quickly. Luckily, we have the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows us to essentially travel two for the price of one. Every time I purchase a Southwest ticket, Sergio gets the same itinerary for only the cost of taxes and surcharges. Talk about the ultimate BOGO (Buy One Get One Free)! Extra Pack of Peanuts has a great article on how to get the Southwest Companion Pass.
The down side is that one ticket to each destination on our route is still expensive, usually much more expensive than driving. Secondly, you still have to rent a car for local transportation. We’d do public transportation wherever possible, but let’s face it, public transportation is lacking in many places within the United States. The upside of renting a car locally is that you have the same pick-up and drop-off location. This saves a hefty fee that you get when renting in one location and dropping off in another city. Naturally, since we’re value driven we need to take into consideration time, convenience, flexibility, etc., not just cost.
2. Rent a car in our home town and keep it through the end of the trip in San Diego.
Doing this option means we have to drive the whole trip and we pay a nice little surcharge for dropping it off, not only in a different city, but several states away. Another difficulty with this plan is that we don’t have an official date of departure. We could try letting the car rental company know that we're going to rent the car and pick it up on date X, but we’re not completely sure when we’ll return it. Could be a month, or it could be six weeks. We doubt that’ll fly. However, there are ways around this, like extending the rental period, but this just leads to timetable issues and other variables we’d rather avoid.
3. Drive our car and then sell it in San Diego.
Just like renting a car, this means that we have to drive the entire route, which is a lot of driving. Secondly, our car is no spring chicken. At 17 years old and 150,000 miles, it's seen younger days. However, being that it’s a reliable Honda Civic and we’ve taken really good care of it, it may end up being just fine for the whole trip.
The biggest negative to driving our own car is that we can’t sell it before we leave. This means we’ll have to sell it at our final destination. This could take 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months. This dramatically increases the number of variables around our intended departure date.
The Pros and The Cons
We ran the numbers on all options. Looking at the cost of plane tickets and local rentals, compared to one long rental and then the cost of gas if we used our own car. We took into consideration all the pros and cons. We pretty quickly were able to eliminate the option of renting a car for the entire trip. The unknown length of our trip, as well as the cost, made this option prohibitive. The ease and simplicity of flying to each destination, along with the reduced price of airfare with the Companion Pass was very alluring. If we chose to fly, we’d be free and clear, leaving Idaho with only our 36-litter backpacks and ready to go. No car, no apartment, and no excess belongings to worry about. On the other hand, the cost of plane tickets and local rentals was pretty expensive and would take away from our funds to travel in Europe.
A pro, we realized, to taking our own car was that we could use this west coast trip as a trial run of our traveling in Europe. Having the car with us would allow us to carry a few extra things with us, like shampoo and dental hygiene supplies, that we’d use up in the few weeks we traveled within the United States. It would also allow us to ‘test carry’ things we aren’t sure if we'd use in Europe. Ultimately, it will allow us to fine tune our backpack along the way.
Drum Roll Please...
After careful analysis, we chose to take our own car to San Diego. Now that we’ve finished the road trip and are in San Diego, we can honestly say it was a great decision! We made it safe and sound with no car trouble. Our little Civic was a trooper! We ended up with two boxes and our pillows when leaving Idaho (on top of our backpacks). One box was considered ‘short term’ and used for consumables that we used daily (shampoo, face wash, etc.). The second box was considered ‘long term’ and held items we didn’t plan on touching much until arriving in San Diego (paperwork for the car, toiletry containers and new shoes). Along the way, we got a pretty good idea of what we need and what we don’t. We also learned how much we consume, so we can be aware of what we need to purchase and how often we need to purchase it along the way.
Preparing to Sell the Car
Once arriving in San Diego the major item on our ‘to-do’ list was cleaning, listing and selling the car. We wanted this done ASAP. We felt this could take weeks and neither one of use wanted to be stuck waiting for the car to sell or having to sell it for a ridiculously low price. Up to this point, whenever someone asked us when we’re going to leave the country, our answer always revolved around the timing of selling our car. So, with this variable and sense of urgency we jumped to it.
There were a few things we had going for us, along with a few things we did that helped us sell our car for a good price.
Initial Car Choice:
- Honda's are known for being reliable cars and because of that hold their value fairly well.
- We had excellent gas mileage on our car. Between it being a small, high MPG car, as well as the way we drove it, we got 38 MPG average over the last 4 years.
- We took very good care of our car. We did all of the routine maintenance and when something went wrong (which it rarely did) we fixed it right away.
- We had the maintenance records dating back to 2002 (from the previous owners).
- We never allowed any smoking or animals in the car.
- We cleaned the car top to bottom. We both spent a solid 5 hours cleaning it! First impressions are everything. When a car looks good, it’s assumed it’s well maintained.
- Our listing was extremely detailed and included the fundamental information, plus, as you would expect much more. We made sure to note that it had limited owners and had always been driven by responsible adults.
- We took extensive images. Every angle inside and out. (TIP: For an added layer of security don’t forget to blur or block the license plate.)
- We used Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, and other local car listings for the same make/model/year of car to find the high and low end value of the car.
- We listed it on the higher side of the range (it of course warranted it) to leave room for negotiation.
Now, of course, there are always things beyond the basics you can do to try and increase the resale value. Since we’re constantly evaluating our options and past decisions, this is what we came up with:
- New tires – Our tires had about 80% wear on them. We choose not to replace them because we highly doubted the $350 investment would bring that much or more on the selling price.
- Things happened so quickly (less than an hour from our initial Craigslist post), it took us by surprise. We should have been more prepared. We especially should have talked about negotiating as a team ahead of time. Both of us are experienced in negotiating on our own, but not as a couple. We didn’t go into it prepared, by knowing our lowest acceptable offer or who was taking the lead. We were fortunate the buyer didn’t take advantage of our lack of preparation. A lapse in judgment for sure. Next time, we’ll be sure to discuss this ahead of time and have a plan of attack.
That Was Almost Too Fast
Here is the fun part of the story. We listed the car on Craigslist and within 15 minutes had our first inquiry. Within an hour we had 4 calls/messages. The first person to inquire bought the car within an hour. Because we expected the process to take a couple of weeks and therefore cause us to lower the price multiple times, we’re very happy to have sold the car for $200 less than we initially asked for. A fair deal for us and the buyer!
So now that the car is sold… we have a much shorter ‘to-do’ list. We can’t say that our parents aren’t disappointed it happened so fast, since it may mean less time in their spare room and us on the plane to Europe much sooner!